the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Stronger than the centripetal force in these

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stronger than the centripetal force in these states—the seeds of disunion much more numerous than those of union.” He told Washington that the prospects for reform were bleak: “I fear we have been contending for a shadow.” 48 Washington wanted it to be known that he had done his level best to get the army what it justly deserved, and to register his rather conspicuous opinion that only a radical change in the Articles could permit that to happen. “No man in the United States is, or can be, more deeply impressed with the present necessity of a reform in the present Confederation than myself,” he explained, “for to the defects thereof, and want of powers in the Congress may justly be ascribed the prolongation of the War and the current plight of the Army.” 49 The unattractive truth was that the arrival of the provisional treaty ending the war in April 1783 made the Continental Army superfluous, and the sooner it disappeared, the better. Congress eventually voted to provide full pay for five years for officers in lieu of half pay for life, but doing so was a purely rhetorical exercise, since there was no money in the federal coffers to pay anyone. Even that meaningless commitment generated widespread criticism, especially in New England, where returning officers were greeted with newspaper editorials describing them as blood-beaked vultures feeding at the public trough. At least in retrospect, the dissolution of the Continental Army in the spring of 1783 was one of the most poignant scenes in American history, as the men who had stayed the course and won the war were ushered off without pay, with paper pensions and only grudging recognition of their service. Washington could only weep: “To be disbanded…like a set of beggars, needy, distressed, and without prospect…will drive every man of Honor and Sensibility to the extreme Horrors of Despair.” 50 Morris could not tolerate the injustice of it all. So he agreed to pay all members of the army for three months, and since there were no federal funds to cover that expense, he spent his last days in office writing personal checks, called Morris notes, to the tune of $750,000 in today’s dollars. This nearly bankrupted him, but it constituted a dramatic statement to his critics that he had never been in it for the money. 51 Morris had already announced his decision to step down, declaring that “I will never be the Minister of Injustice,” presumably referring to the shabby treatment of the army. More broadly, he had been overseeing an inherently dysfunctional fiscal policy. “To increase our debts while the Prospect of paying
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them diminishes,” he caustically noted, “does not consist with my Ideas of integrity.” Throughout his tenure as superintendent of finance, Morris had acted on the assumption that the United States were in fact bound together by a common debt incurred in the war for independence, and that bond created a common obligation to support a national fiscal policy. But it was now clear beyond any doubt that very few
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